Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday the coronavirus infection rate in the country has "significantly" dropped but the government needs "few more days" before the lockdown could be eased.
Israel's coronavirus cabinet late Tuesday extended the nationwide lockdown until midnight Sunday, although this could change when the cabinet meets again on Thursday.
Netanyahu released a statement, addressed to the Israeli public, where he defended imposing a second nationwide lockdown and said there is place for optimism.
"Infection figures are declining significantly," the prime minister said. "In order to ease the lockdown and allow for a gradual reopening, in line with the outline establishing a coronavirus routine, we must wait for more data," he added.
"We're getting closer! But it will take a few more days, therefore, we decided to extend the lockdown, at this stage, until Sunday."
The prime minister added that during the cabinet meeting on Thursday, the government will discuss the possibility of reopening "small businesses that don't involve interaction with the public, kindergartens and take-away services at restaurants."
Netanyahu has been critisised for mismanaging the nation’s coronavirus crisis and accused of being unfir to rule while on trial for corruption charges. He is on trial for fraud, breach of trust and accepting bribes for his role in a series of scandals, and the demonstrators have staged weekly gatherings for the past four months demanding that he step down.
The marches have also been fueled by the government’s response to the pandemic. After appearing to contain the outbreak last spring through a tight lockdown, it reopened the economy quickly and the infection rate soared. The country of 9 million people has one of the highest infection rates in the developed world and the death toll higher than 2,000.
Associated Press contributed to this report